Today we're launching Marianne Boucher's graphic memoir Talking to Strangers, about her experiences as a teenage girl who was lured into a cult and later fought to escape and reclaim her identity.
The Elevator Pitch. Tell us about your book in a sentence.
My memoir, Talking to Strangers, takes place in California when I was 18. I had travelled there to audition for the Ice Capades, but instead I was lured into a scary religious cult.
Describe your ideal reader.
Someone who has been flung off the planet by a traumatic experience and is curious about how I found my way back from the same. People concerned about brainwashing or mind control and how disinformation undermines the truth and the rights of others. And those with an interest in mental health, psychology and the history of PTSD.
What authors/books is your work in conversation with?
David Small, Stitches; Matt Haig, Reasons to Stay Alive; Elaine Scarry, On Beauty and Being Just; Dr. Margaret Singer, Cults in Our Midst.
What is something interesting you learned about your book/yourself/your subject during the process of creating and publishing your book?
I thought it was going to be difficult to draw myself, but it was actually very satisfying to relive this event visually, and I developed a huge crush on my 18-year-old self, her vulnerability and kindness. The graphic novel is a beautiful format for healing and sharing difficult stories.
I developed a huge crush on my 18-year-old self, her vulnerability and kindness. The graphic novel is a beautiful format for healing and sharing difficult stories.
What do you hope people take away from your book?
My book is a PSA for the current need for critical thinking—this should be our greatest focus. Readers will come to understand that there are methods that people can use to remove our ability to think for ourselves. Our work is to remain individuals, and see each other as individuals, in a world that tries to shape and control us.
An important part of any book launch are the thank you’s. Go ahead, and acknowledge someone whose support has been integral to this project.
Firstly, I would like to thank my parents for their heroic fight against a sinister cult. A special thanks to my friend and deprogrammer Blake Sonic for his kindness and bravery. And I would like to thank all of the smart and passionate Doubleday Canada editors, and the very talented Willow Dawson, for taking this graphic memoir across the finish line. Lastly, I would like to dedicate this memoir to my 18-year-old self: cheers!
What are you reading right now or next?
I’ve just started reading The Wagers, by Sean Michaels, who is the Scotiabank Giller Prize–winning author of Us Conductors.
Welcome to a place where you are valued. Where everyone is kind. Where you can be your truest self.
It was the summer of 1980, and Marianne Boucher was ready to chase her figure skating dream. Fuelled by the desire to rise above her mundane high-school life, she sought a new adventure as a glamorous performer in L.A.
And then a chance encounter on a California beach introduced her to a new group of people. People who shared her distrust of the status quo. People who seemed to value authenticity and compassion above all else. And they liked her. Not Marianne the performer, but Marianne the person.
Soon, she'd abandoned school, her skating and, most dramatically, her family to live with her new friends and help them fulfill their mission of "saving the world." She believed that no sacrifice was too great to be there--and to live with real purpose. They were helping people, and they cared about her . . . didn't they?
Talking to Strangers is the true story of Marianne Boucher's experiences in a cult, where she was subjected to sophisticated brainwashing techniques that took away her freedom, and took over her mind. Told in mesmerizing graphic memoir form, with vivid text and art alike, Marianne shares how she fell in with devotees of a frightening spiritual abuser, and how she eventually, painfully, pulled herself out.